Mrs. Snezana Trpevska, in the past years has participated in numerous academic and applied research projects related to the freedom of expression and media pluralism, media literacy, audience attitudes and behavior in relation to media content, media concentration and broadcasting regulation, ethics in journalism etc.
“My main focus of my brief discussion would be on where to find the solution, which is the base, the best approach we can adopt to tackle the problem of the influence of new technologies in our societies, and more specifically the problem of the huge spread of disinformation, said Trpevska on the Regional Conference “Attacks on democracy and human rights”, held on 28 july, 2021, in Skopje.
Trpevska referred to the research on the level of media literacy in the country, and what are the reasons for the audience’s acceptance of misinformation and false news.
“I am now more interested, although I have worked a lot in media policy issues and regulation, I am more interested on the demand side, on the reasons why the audience actually demands for, or is receptive to disinformation, to fake news and so on. There hasn’t been much studies in our country on these issues. Three years ago there was a study commissioned by the regulator, if you remember, a huge survey on the individual levels of media literacy in the country. There are also some other studies that just grasp the issue the reasons why audience in our country, more specifically behave or is so much receptive to disinformation.
Mainly the knowledge that is achieved in social research in other countries also explains the reasons why the audience behaves like this. It is a fact that social media in our country as well is becoming the main way of accessing news, especially for the younger generations. It is also known that social media continues to contribute to the increasing distribution of user generated information, which includes false claims, fabricated news, disinformation, conspiracy theories, hate speech and so on. But before I move to the main points of my discussion – where to find the solution to the problem, let’s not forget that this wealth of information in digital news outlets has revolutionized and democratized politics. The public can scrutinize what politicians are doing in real time, and comment on it almost instantly via social networks. So, let’s not forget the positive aspect of the problem. We re repeating now, because we are facing the problem of spreading of disinformation and the negative influence of this phenomenon reflects in our societies”, says Trpevska.
Should some content be banned or should the population be raised? Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, stressed Trpevska.
“So, what’s the problem here. The answer seems straightforward. The digital disinformation is a huge problem because for most people, for most of the people it is not easy at all to distinguish credible news from disinformation, fake news or manipulation on social media. So, that is the core of the problem. Why people cannot recognize what is credible news and what is disinformation? But the solution of the problem is not straightforward. We can easily describe the problem, but the solution is not simple. Which approach is best? Whether to apply restrictive or positive measures? Whether to ban some content or to work on raising awareness of the population. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.
For example, legislation banning disinformation and fake news may infringe upon individual’s rights and freedom of speech, and on top of this, online information is extremely hard to regulate because it spreads like wildfire on social media. So, there is not a simple solution as to whether to adopt restrictive measures in the regulation. On the other side, campaigns and short educational programs can only partially make changes in the awareness and skills of the population to recognize this disinformation.
As one of the solutions, Trpevska points out the combined approach regarding the adoption of restrictive measures in the regulation.
“Probably the best solution would be to combine both approaches. To be extremely careful when introducing restrictive measures, but at the same time, to implement thorough and long-term interventions in other societal areas, like for example, the education system, formal education system and self-regulations, strengthening the role of the family, the professionalization of the media, the role of the civil society sector. I think that in our countries actually, what has been achieved so far is more on the side of the civil society sector and on running a comprehensive media literacy campaign than on engaging in on thorough reforms of the formal education system. And that is the problem we are facing now.
So, we know that media information literacy has become a critical skill since the appearance of the notion of fake news and later disinformation in the public discourse. Today everyone talks about media information literacy as part of the solution. This is a kind of basic prerequisite to identify, select, understand and use trustworthy information and to participate in the public discussion.”
Trpevska says that media and information literacy among citizens can not be a solution to the problem of disruptive public discourse, and that critical thinking skills should be developed.
“However, my argument here is that media and information literacy cannot be the solution for the problem of the disruptive public discourse if its focus is not on developing critical thinking skills among the population. And this is a very complex and slow process that can only be achieved through a carefully designed reform of the formal education process at all levels. In our country for example, there have been a huge number of educational programs, awareness raising campaigns and various other initiatives, and there are also announcements that media information literacy will be introduced in the formal education system in the beginning of September this year. But my dilemma is how this reforms will be implemented, will they be implemented thoroughly based on the scientific evidence gained so far, on how through the learning process the individual can adopt a critical, or even better to say, scientific way of reasoning, or they will be implemented in a way that only a few systematic units in media literacy will be introduced within some social science subjects within the formal education.
I think the biggest problem with our education today is that it doesn’t teach students to think critically. Although there is a widespread consensus regarding what skills constitute critical thinking, as well as substantial research on how those skills can be taught successfully within the formal education process, I don’t think that this knowledge has been taken into account, while designing the reforms, at least in our country, I don’t know what the situation is other countries in the region and I am not optimistic that the solution will be visible soon for that reason. So I will end here on this main point of my discussion”, concluded Trpevska.
Camera: Dehran Muratov
Video editing: Arian Mehmeti
Photography: Ognen Boshnjakovski